Lifetime learning Featured

7:00pm EDT December 26, 2008

More than ever before, employees facing downsizing and layoffs requirestaying power to separate themselves from their peers. Many professionalsare returning to continuing education’s user-friendly environment to master new skill setsand reinvent themselves as go-to players indifficult economic conditions. According tothe U.S. Department of Education’s NationalCenter for Education Statistics, from 2005 to2016, total enrollment in adult continuingeducation programs is expected to rise 17percent to 20.4 million students.

“In response to the need for professionalupdates, specific skills building or degreecompletion, continuing education fulfills abroad spectrum of adult educational needsand remains the most accessible and responsive option for adult students,” says Dr.Dorothy Prisco, vice president for academicaffairs, Delaware Valley College. “In today’scompetitive and dynamic business environment, adult students recognize that their education is ongoing and may be focused arounda variety of issues, including a promotion thatis in sight, the need for enhanced communication skills for executive presentations, theredirection of a corporate mission requiringadditional competencies or preparing for acareer change.”

Smart Business spoke with Prisco to learnmore about how continuing education programs provide flexible and timely trainingoptions for today’s professionals and serve asa low-cost/high-benefit investment for companies to maximize employee potential.

What factors are placing a greater premiumon continuing education?

A tumultuous business environment naturally triggers a process of self-assessment,professional re-examination, and even anticipation of layoff or unemployment. In thiseconomic environment, where can you findsolutions that meet your educational needsin a timely fashion and have the supportmechanisms in place for adult students?Continuing education has historically beenthe adult user-friendly environment offering abroad range of content options that are continually updated and timely. Beyond content,continuing education programs provide flexibility, online options and short-term educational scheduling to respond to the need forprofessional skills enhancements that oftenneed to be achieved in a short time frame.

How does the additional training enhanceemployee performance in business and personally?

Continuing education is organized to offereducational opportunities that are directlyrelated to business performance whileenriching one personally. Perhaps you needadditional computer skills or must do morewriting and reporting to fulfill professionalrequirements. A career move may be soughtalong with additional skills needed to remaincurrent in a competitive environment. Individuals who continually update and broadenskills will be valued. Personally, educationalachievements provide a sense of confidencewhen facing new professional challenges.

How are learning institutions adapting continuing education programs to meet changing business requirements?

Continuing education programs mustalways remain agile and quick to respond toidentified professional needs. They have been historically positioned in this way, but ina dynamic business environment, continuingeducation has responded with increasingagility, diversification of programs and user-friendly options. This relates to content areasthat may be organized as separate courses orcertificate programs that document a specific competency. Delivery systems nowinclude many online options and on-site programs that are convenient and accessible.Continuing education programs may bedesigned specifically for an organization withidentified needs, providing custom-madeprograms for efficiency and effectiveness.

What continuing education programs areseeing a high growth rate?

Programs that enhance a variety of jobskills in a timely manner are in demand.These may include computer skills upgrades,report writing, running an effective meeting,legal issues pertaining to the workplace,among others. Also popular are degree-completion programs offered in a cohort, accelerated format and meeting the needs ofadults who want to make a career change.Continuing education has had growing interest, for instance, in businesspeople who wantto make the shift to different career opportunities within the business environment.

In what ways do companies benefit whenemployees pursue continuing education?

The best investment a company can makein their employees is in their education.Continuing education programs provideaccessible and focused learning opportunities for employees with specific educationalneeds. Workers with updated and competentskills offer companies the best investmentsfor their success in this highly competitiveand dynamic environment. Employees whoremain current in their areas of responsibilityare confident and productive members of theorganization. Both internally and externally,knowledgeable professionals reflect positively on the organization and its viability. Theymotivate others to question their competencies and need for additional education.

DR. DOROTHY PRISCO is vice president for academic affairs, Delaware Valley College. Reach her at (215) 489-2910,